UE Urges GE
To Increase Retiree
UE Genl. Pres. John H. Hovis
John Hovis, the union’s national president, made a
holiday appeal to General Electric for an immediate and substantial increase
in the pension benefits received by the company’s retired workers. Hovis
also called on GE to substantially increase the minimum pension multiplier.
GE retirees have not seen a pension adjustment since November
1996, Hovis noted in his letter to the company. That modest raise did not
apply to those who retired after June 1, 1994, who have endured price
increases of up to 13.6 percent since they began collecting their pensions.
"Living on fixed incomes as they do, GE retirees can
ill-afford such a loss of purchasing power," Hovis wrote. "Nor does
the overall inflation rate adequately reflect the sharp increases GE retirees
have endured in their living expenses."
This loss of purchasing power, the union president said,
"weighs particularly heavily on those many thousands of GE retirees who
are existing on pension multipliers in the range of $10.50 to $20 a month per
years of service. The average pension of this group comes to $100 a week. Many
surviving spouses are faring even worse."
The union president, who will lead the UE negotiating
committee in national bargaining with the company in May, noted the contrast
between the pensioners’ plight and the exponential growth in the GE pension
fund’s assets and level of overfunding. "As of last year the plan was
58 percent overfunded (up from 31 percent in just three years). Each year the
growth in assets substantially exceeds any increases in projected obligations.
We expect that when the 1999 figures are released the overfunding will be in
the neighborhood of $20 billion. No other company that we are aware of comes
anywhere near this staggering number."
Hovis reminded company officials that "The plan exists solely
for the benefit of its participants, retirees and beneficiaries. It does not
exist to fatten GE’s earnings statement and therefore its stock price
through the use of accounting gimmicks.
"GE would also do well to remember that the efforts of
its many thousands of retirees in large measure account for the company’s
current unprecedented level of prosperity," Hovis declared.
Hiding behind a Supreme Court decision, GE refuses to
recognize the union’s right to bargain on behalf of retirees, who have been
repeatedly forced to demonstrate to demand pension adjustments.
UE News - 02/00